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The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion was unique in the annals of World War II history. It was the only all-African American, all-female unit to serve overseas. A Women’s Army Corps (WAC) unit, the 6888th kept mail flowing to nearly seven million soldiers in the European Theater of Operations.
The women of the 6888th Battalion survived two anxious brushes with the German military during World War II. First, German U-boats forced the unit’s convoy to reroute during its voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. Then, upon arriving in England a V1 rocket, known as a Buzz Bomb, came roaring into the area.
“Everyone was running,” recalled Mrs. Mary Ragland, a veteran of the unit, about the Buzz Bomb attack in February 1945, where the snow-saturated ground made running difficult. Alyce Dixon remembered, “I was little and I could get down.” No one was hurt in the attack, but the rocket got their attention: “I was always ready to run,” said Ragland. The U-boats had a similar effect: “Darn tootin’ I was scared!” admitted Ragland. The worst part was being in the middle of a vast ocean: “You can’t see land anywhere.”
During World War II African-American women from all over the United States joined the Army. “After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the whole country got involved,” remembered Gladys Shuster Carter, who joined up in Richmond, Virginia. Ragland, who was raised in Wilmington, Delaware, enlisted right out of high school at age 17. She decided to join after seeing a recruiting advertisement in the newspaper that offered African American women the chance to go overseas. Alyce Dixon joined the Army before the country joined the fight.
Already relegated to a separate unit because of their gender, the women were further segregated because of the color of their skin. But they were ready to work for their country, and their abilities were needed.
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